Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Only Final Four We Have Left from 2008...

Silly Memphis. Did you not see the sign?

When Tiger fans heard of the NCAA's decision to wipe out Memphis' 2007-08 record, 99.9% blamed Calipari. Cal's knack for salesmanship, coupled with his relationship with William Wesley (I refuse to call him Worldwide Wes unless he joins Memphis Wrestling), led to above-average recruiting and rumors of under the table dealings. Nevermind the already tainted recruiting history Calipari crafted for himself at UMass. That's no reason to suspect he could be trouble in the future.

I was ready to come out with guns blazing when I first heard about the NCAA's decision. I was ready to line up the usual suspects, namely Calipari, the NCAA, the handlers and RC Johnson, offer each of them a cigarette and their last words and be done with them forever. However, the longer I have had to process the scenario and read more of what has come out in regard to Rose's academics, I am truly at a loss for someone to blame. So I've decided to list out the parties involved, discuss what roles they may have played, and open the floor for discussion. Please feel free to comment below...

1. The NCAA:

A) This is the easiest culprit to identify. The NCAA initially cleared Rose to play. In my eyes, this act is as good as the NCAA giving its blessing to Rose, Cal and the Tigers and setting them free to dominate most of the league that year. If they clear an athlete to play, why on God's green earth would the school or coach investigate the validity of the student's test? When dealing with an organization as subjective and schizophrenic as the NCAA (see Gary Parrish's thoughts on the Duke/Maggette/NCAA love triangle), why bite the hand that feeds? Especially when they're offering future number one NBA draft picks for a year?

B) Furthermore, why would the NCAA wait until March or April to notify Rose and Memphis of their interest in Rose's test score? This isn't Watergate. All that was required is to check with the testing center. Whether the identification procedures of the testing center were fingerprints, two forms of picture ID, or verifying a student's identity by their respective tattoos, the testing center could have known nothing more in March than it did the previous summer when they sent in the new and improved Derrick Rose test scores. So why would the NCAA clear Rose to play for a season, then start raising questions at the end of the season? I can't say for sure, but I bet it had nothing to do with the money Derrick Rose brought to the game and the NCAA in his one season as a college player. I also bet that Cal would keep himself clean once he came to Memphis, so take that for what it's worth.

C) Finally, if the NCAA is keeping such a close eye on the academic eligibility of student-athletes, why were there no red flags raised when Rose bombed his college entrance exam three times in Chicago, took the test in Detroit a couple weeks before the semester started, and viola! Rose is a master at the SAT. He's even planning on teaching an SAT prep course next summer. I kid. Yet, this fact is the most important in the debate. Rose took college entrance exams four times and only right before college started, in a city 300 miles away (which happens to be the city in which William Wesley lives), did Rose do well enough to get into school. That is the NCAA screening process?! What a joke.

2. College Board/The Testing Center:

A) No one has really been mentioning the test provider or the testing center, but I feel like they are important pieces of the puzzle. Do you remember taking a college entrance exam? Those tests were administered by disgruntled school teachers who had to follow up a week of babysitting kids by coming in on a Saturday morning and monitoring kids for five more hours. Not exactly a bastion of security or integrity. If these administrators paid any attention and caught on that non-Rose was taking Rose's test, the administrator could've been paid off easily to keep it quiet. At risk of sounding more like a conspiracy theorist, I'll move on.

B) College Board is the organization that makes and scores the SAT. I had planned on railing on them like I did in part C of the NCAA portion, but as I was writing this paragraph, a quote from this Fox Sports story jumped out at me. The story says the Rose failed the ACT three times. Yet, all the commotion has focused on Rose's SAT score. While the SAT is administered by College Board, the ACT is administered by ACT, Inc., a totally different company. Thus, when "Rose" took the SAT and scored exceedingly better, College Board had no previous test to base it on because Rose had only taken the ACT up to that point. So I suppose that lets College Board off the hook. However, that could be a big loophole for this kind of thing in the future. The NCAA should check into that the next time they need a scapegoat.

3. Cal:

A) Seth Davis summed it up best when asked about Cal's culpability, "I think most of the time coaches know or choose not to know."

B) We all know about William Wesley. We know about Marcus Camby. We know about Milt Wagner. The list goes on. Yeah, I know, the guy's past doesn't necessarily implicate him in the future, but if it smells like a horse, acts like a horse, and you can regularly find him at the Derby...

But I've got to hand it to Calipari. He's done a good job of making none of this stick to himself. He'd be perfect for Washington if there wasn't so much money in basketball. Whether the NCAA is turning a blind eye to him has yet to be revealed, but he's getting away with another college basketball murder by allowing Memphis to steal his beloved spotlight for once. If nothing else, the flogging given to Memphis by the NCAA is a testament to Calipari's ability to manipulate the Memphis athletic department...

4. RC Johnson and the Gang:

I can't help but assume the admissions committee and/or athletic department at Memphis knew about Rose's struggle with college entrance exams. For the reasons I've listed above, they likely turned a blind eye to the situation. Was it Cal's salesmanship? Was it the lure of big-time success? Who knows? At the very least, the AD needed to ask questions. Especially considering Cal's past, RC Johnson needed some leverage in the situation, but by maintaining his status quo of asleep at the wheel, he opened the school to wrongdoing and embarrassment.

Well, there are some points to get discussion started. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below. Sorry for bullet points instead of a story, but I'm still unsettled by this and figured it'd be good for some bantering back and forth. There will be more on this soon, namely a campaign to push an investigation into Darrell Arthur having his high school grades changed. Whatever happened to just playing ball? Geez...